Newcastle United’s majority owners the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia are reportedly considering investing in Qatari-based beIN Sports. The report from Bloomberg will come as a shock to many when you consider the recent history between the two.
BeIN were accused of lobbying Premier League clubs against the PIF-led takeover of Newcastle during the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) hearing last year. Indeed beIN chief executive, Yousef al-Obaidly wrote to clubs accusing Saudi Arabia of the “facilitation of the near three-year theft of the Premier League’s commercial rights – and in turn your club’s commercial revenues – through its backing of the huge-scale beoutQ pirate service”.
Shortly after the CAT hearing took place, the £305million takeover bid was coincidentally approved by the Premier League when Saudi Arabia lifted its four-year ban on the sports broadcaster. The EPL, who conducted its owners’ and directors’ test, said it had received “legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.”
A year on and PIF is reportedly among parties that have informally signaled interest in partnering with Doha-based BeIN. US private equity firms are also keen to invest.
BeIN has been the Premier League’s official broadcast partner in Middle East and North Africa since 2013, and Conrad Wiacek, Head of Sport Analysis at GlobalData, believes PIF’s interest is a “significant statement of intent”.
Wiacek said: “Having lifted the ban on BeIN Sports, the news that the PIF is looking to partner with the Qatari broadcaster is not only a shock, but also represents a significant statement of intent from the Kingdom, given the growth in its sporting footprint in recent years. From the takeover of Newcastle United to hosting major events such as boxing and F1 races, this acquisition suggests that rumoured bids for the World Cup and Olympics in 2030 and 2036 may not be complete pipedreams.
“Furthermore, it represents a serious geopolitical shift and a thawing of relations between the two countries. Having attempted to undermine BeIN Sports through the pirate BeoutQ platform, which the government strenuously denied, as well as banning BeIN Sports from broadcasting in Saudi Arabia, this reconciliation ahead of the upcoming World Cup would immediately realign the sports rights market and mark BeIN Sports as a major global player for centralized sports rights such as the Olympic Games when those are renewed in Europe in 2024.”